Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was questioned under caution by Israel Police's Lahav 433 fraud investigation unit for the second time on Monday regarding financial irregularities in the running of the prime minister’s households in Jerusalem and Caesarea.
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Police investigators asked Netanyahu about a number of matters, including how the budget for the official Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem is spent, as well as the hiring of various employees and contractors and whether public funds were spent on the Netanyahu family's private home in Caesarea.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein personally approved the police's request to question Sara Netanyahu under caution. Weinstein will complete his term at the end of the month, it is still not clear if he will make any further decisions in the case before leaving office.
The probe, based on a state comptroller’s report issued in February, along with evidence supplied by Meni Naftali, a former chief caretaker at the official residence who is suing the Netanyahus and the state, focuses on three issues.
One is the employment of electrician Avi Fahima, a former Likud Central Committee member who has been close to Benjamin Netanyahu for years and often did work at the Caesarea residence in the years when Netanyahu was out of office.
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report found that the Prime Minister’s Office continued using Fahima for work at the Caesarea home in disregard to government regulations. Moreover, it paid Fahima inflated sums for “urgent repairs” on Shabbat and even Yom Kippur, when regular employees in the Prime Minister’s Office are unavailable.
The second issue relates to refunds on recycled bottles. As Haaretz reported a year ago, between 2009 and 2013 Sara Netanyahu allegedly pocketed thousands of shekels in such refunds. The refunds should actually have gone to the government, which paid for the original drinks. Two years ago, after this issue first came to light during Naftali’s lawsuit against the state and the Netanyahus, the prime minister repaid the state 4,000 shekels ($1,050). But Naftali claimed the real sum Sara Netanyahu took was around 24,000 shekels.
The third issue relates to garden furniture purchased for the prime minister’s official residence. Police suspect the new furniture was actually transferred to the Caesarea home, while the official residence was left with the old furniture.
In addition, the police will try to find out if the public funds were used to pay for a caregiver to Sara Netanyahu's late father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi.